How to Freeze Tomatoes From Your Garden

Freezing home grown or farm fresh tomatoes for use in winter cooking is very easy to do! The flavor of spaghetti sauce, lasagna, and salsas you make then will be superior to those made from canned tomatoes or store bought so called "fresh" tomatoes.

Here's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated. This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this! It's a great thing to do with your kids!
Ingredients and Equipment

* Tomatoes - any quantity, ripe, but not over ripe, still firm.
* Vacuum food sealer or plastic freezer bags

* 1 large pot
* Large slotted spoon

Process - How to Make Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
Step 1 - Selecting the tomatoes

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality tomatoes!

4 common varieties that will work:
Beefsteak ; Lemon Boy, yellow
Roma, paste-type Better Boy


The best variety of tomato to use: Roma; also called paste tomatoes. they have fewer sides, thicker, meatier walls, and less water. And that means thicker sauce in less cooking time!

Also, you don't want mushy, bruised or rotten tomatoes!
Step 2 - Removing the tomato skins

Here's a trick you may not know: put the tomatoes, a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 - 45 seconds is usually enough)

then....


Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.



This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes! If you leave the skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce, not very pleasant.

After you have peeled the skins off the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half. Now we need to remove the seeds and excess water.

Note: why remove the skins? They become tough and discolored in storage. You wouldn't want to eat them!


Step 3 - Squeeze of the seeds and water

Just like it sounds: wash your hands then squeeze each tomato and use your finger or a spoon to scoop and shake out most of the seeds. You don't need to get fanatical about it; removing just most will do.


Step 4 - Drain the tomatoes

Toss the squeezed (Squozen? tomatoes into a colander or drainer, while you work on others. This helps more of the water to drain off. You may want to save the liquid: if you then pass it through a sieve, screen or cheesecloth, you have fresh tomato juice; great to drink cold or use in cooking! By draining the water off now, you'll end up with a thicker spaghetti sauce in less cooking time! And that preserves vitamins (and your sanity).

Step 5 - Fill the freezer bags

Don't overfill the bags, leave a little room for expansion. Do try to avoid leaving any air pockets! A vacuum bag is shown at left, but you can use ziploc (or similar) bags, show below. But be sure to squeze out the extra air.



Step 6 - Freeze the bags

Pop them into the freezer (on the quick freeze shelf, if you have one). Now leave them for 2 or 3 hours till frozen.


Step 7 - Vacuum seal the bags (if you have a vacuum sealer)

Obviously if you haven't got a vacuum food sealer, just inspect the bags and you may need to open them and reseal them to eliminate any air pockets!



Step 8 - Put in the back of your freezer

And wait for a cold winter night when it is dark and dreary out, to remove it and defrost (microwave works well) and use in making so fresh tasting spaghetti sauce or other tomato cooking!



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Other Equipment:

1. Jar lifting tongs
to pick up hot jars
2. Lid lifter
- to remove lids from the pot
of boiling water (sterilizing )
3. Lid
- disposable - you may only
use them once
4. Ring
- holds the lids on the jar until after
the jars cool - then you don't need them
5. Canning jar funnel
- to fill the jars



Home Canning Kits

This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce!. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids!



Answers to Common Questions

What did I do wrong if my jars spoil?

Tomatoes are a low acid fruit - adding lemon juice helps, processing at least 35 minutes in the water bath canner, or better still, using a pressure canner almost eliminates spoilage. If you don't have a pressure canner, you must boost the acid level of the sauce, by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of sauce.

I have read in other homemade spaghetti sauce recipes that you need to cook the mixture for at least 4-5 hours. Is this necessary?

I suppose if you really want to make sure that absolutely no vitamins survive, you could cook it that long! The only reason people used to tomato sauce that long was the Roma paste-type tomatoes, with thicker walls, meatier with fewer seeds and less water didn't exist, so they had to cook it for hours to get rid of water and thicken it. And of course, modern sauce mixes that contain a little bit of corn starch as a thickener, also help shorten the time.

And for those who want to go strictly organic and au naturale, my method of squeezing out the excess water and seeds eliminates much of the excess juice (which you can save as tomato juice for drinking) and lets you start with a thicker tomato pulp which means much shorter cooking time!